Cleaning house physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Posts tagged ‘Hurricane Andrew’

Sandy, the storm with patience

Hurricane Sandy is making its debut on the named Atlantic storm venue these past few days. It has already hit the Caribbean and killed some 50+ people. And now it is ever so slowly churning its way up the USA Atlantic coast and into the north-east of the USA. Since my name is Sandy and I survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992 in Homestead, Florida, I have been intrigued by the Atlantic storms and hurricanes. Thus this post.

Sandy has been on the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) list of Atlantic hurricanes since 1982. But Sandy has patience (unlike myself) and since 1982 she has not even been a named storm. But 2012 is her year — and six others. There have been six named storms using names never used on the official hurricane name list: Kirk, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, and Tony.

So how did I get my name on the list? Personally I would rather be on someone’s Xmas list. This just must be my year though. I made my first jury duty list (and sat on a jury), and now the hurricane list.

1953 was the first year of creating an organized list of female names for named storms in the Atlantic. My full first name, Sandra, was on the list in 1957, 1963, and 1971.

In 1971, the list contained 10 years of set female names for named storms. However, due to various womens’ groups protesting the sole use female names for storm identification, this was changed again in 1979. Yes, I too was part of that whole womens rights era. (And here we are over 30 years later and women are still receiving less pay than men!) 1979 was the year that both male and female names were used. And that is the current system used today.

There are six sets of names. The first storm of the year is named for the A name on the list. If the year is an even-numbered year (such as 2012), the male names are given to the odd-numbered letter name, such as A = 1 = Alberto, C = 3 = Chris, and so on. The female names are given to the even-numbered letter name, such as B = 2 = Beryl, D = 4 = Debby, and my favorite, 18 = S = Sandy. Note that the following letters are not used in the name list: Q, U, X, Y, and Z. The system switches for odd-numbered years. Example: 2011 had the following names: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, and so on.

If a named storm causes significant damage and destruction, the name may be retired from the six sets of names. The WMO decides on the name’s retirement because its continued use could be deemed insensitive. If retirement occurs, the name can not be used for at least 10 years. A new name replaces that retired storm on the list, starting with the same letter and of the same gender.

I wasn’t until 2005 that an S-letter name (Stan) was retired. I’m thinking Sandy might make retirement this year. Although I hope not, predictions are just too nasty to not think that Sandy is indeed the Frankenstorm of 2012. BTW, meteorologists are up in arms about the use of Frankenstorm instead of Sandy. Too much room for confusion. I agree, but only because I don’t want to be called Frankenstorm.

October 28, 2012 11:00 pm EST
From the Weather Channel

For all in Sandy’s path, I will be thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way. Stay safe!!!


Sunni’s 10 M Poop Dash

How Toilet Training the Cats Provides Cardio Exercise

My youngest kitty, Sunni, has not fully grasped the use of the toilet for her #2 business. Very good at hitting the john for # 1. And MeiMei is a star pupil who does both as expected. But this little story is about Sunni.

While toilet training the cats, I have noticed that Sunni has often been reluctant to poop in the toilet. I can usually tell when she needs to go though as she does this little chirping sound and is quite restless. When this occurs, I keep an eye on her because I now know what the issue is.

Yesterday Sunni did not poop at all; not in the toilet nor elsewhere in the house (thank goodness). So I knew there would be some intestinal activity this morning. When I got up, Sunni immediately went in the cat bathroom (how frigging spoiled are they?) and dutifully peed. She received her bonita flakes treat and then it was MeiMei’s turn. Success.

Within a minute, Sunni was chirping like crazy. I would pick her up and put her on the pot (just like potty training a child). But no go — literally.  Sunni would jump down, run upstairs and start pawing at the carpet in the living room. I would follow her (running up the stairs too), and attempt to grab her. She’d run her little route through the living room, in one corner, under the stool, behind the papasan chair, to another corner, and then I would catch her. I carry her back downstairs to the toilet and place her on the pot.

Of course, she would not do anything except chirp, jump down, and start the whole  10 meter dash again — with me hot on her tail. After a couple of rounds of this, I could tell she was getting a little frantic so I made sure I was right there to catch her. At last, I placed her on the pot and voila!!

I ran up and down the stairs several times, around the living room several laps, and bent and stretched multiple times. The Sunni 10 M Poop Dash certainly got me up and moving for the day. What a way to kick-start the day!

Will probably do it again tomorrow morning, and the next, and the next….

Can’t wait until this race is over and done with.

Toilet Training the Cats #5

Sunni investigating the small opening

About 9 days ago I opened up the first hole in the CitiKitty tray to introduce the cats to the “toilet” world. That did not go well at all (see the intro here). After about 40 hours, the cats were not using the tray at all and someone (not providing a name to protect the innocent), peed and pooped on the bath rug in the upstairs bathroom.

I was a bit concerned about them not accepting this change and also I was not all that interested in cleaning up, so I decided to replace the cutout. I cleaned up everything and used duct tape to close up the opening. Within 1 minute, MeiMei was up on the toilet and producing a river! After a quick clean up, Sunni did the same thing. Whew, the opening created the problem, and maybe we could get over it.

It took several days before Sunni was convinced that using the toilet again would be OK. After both of them were doing all business in the toilet as desired, I would then consider having a small opening again.

Today was that day. I removed the taped cover for the first hole and taped it back down with just a small opening instead of the original larger opening. Someone has used it a couple of times already this evening. Not sure if Sunni (the cautious one) is involved yet.

Yard sale left-overs

The weekend yard sale was OK; between the two of us, we made a few $$. It was hot (94 F.) and hotter. I guess I’m not a true yard sale person, because I could not understand why people came early (can’t they read the signage that says 9 to 1 ?) and showed up way after 1:00.  But the best was that we both got rid of stuff we didn’t want. Teen girl clothes that did not sell will be taken to the Teen Closet, a local organization to provide clothing to foster children. In the past, I had 3 foster kids, so even today, I recognize this enormous need. The rest of the left-overs will go to another organization.

And to end the day, I must share this photo of my daughter (who did not want her picture taken, thus the cover up. I had forgotten the purchase of the t-shirt shortly after Hurricane Andrew. Apparently my daughter found it and wears it. And she was a survivor, so it’s OK.

Surviving Andrew

Hurricane Andrew Blew Me Away – Part 3

Before I continue with my Hurricane Andrew story, I just want to send my best wishes to residents on the East Coast. You have no idea how much you are in my thoughts these past days, and for the next few days too. Irene, you are not on my Xmas list this year!

And one personal side note. During Andrew, one meteorologist, Bryan Norcross, was on the air forever (I exaggerate only a little). While watching the Weather Channel today to get caught up on Irene, who did I see? I heard him first (Bryan Norcross) and recognised his voice immediately, even after 19 years. I am sure I’m not the only one who is forever in his debt for his supportive coverage during Andrew; and all the years since then, including today.

So, we left off with $$ from the insurance company, but little else. And where to spend the night (and future days) while we plan what to do next. I was extremely fortunate to have such caring friends, who tracked me down and offered to house us for a few days.  Cell phones were not common back in 1992, so how they tracked me down was quite a chore. So we left the dogs overnight in the house (guard dogs, ya know), feed them, and took off to Ft. Lauderdale where friends lived.

There were discussions that evening between husband and me. Basically, it was the perfect opportunity to leave Florida. The house and most of our stuff was gone. We had $$ to start again. And I had always said that I wanted to raise our daughter in a lesser populated area, one with four seasons, not just hot, hotter, hottest, and humid. So we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, where I was originally from. Whew, decision made and now the planning.

I had worked in the past with this couple, Karen and Frank. They made phone calls to friends and where they worked, and we got a truck and packing boxes. The next morning, we all drove to Homestead and started packing what we could. Living room, dining  room, kitchen stuff (because most of that was in cupboards and thus not damaged), a few clothes that were undamaged (mold has already damaged most of my clothes), and anything else that we could find, were packed and hauled off. The weather was very hot and since there was no running water, we didn’t stay very long; just long enough to pack the big stuff and get out.

The next day, husband and I went back to Homestead and looked for more stuff that could be saved. At one point I had to use a crowbar to break into a dresser. The wood had swollen so much that I could not access the treasures in the drawer. I was able to save all but one of my Northwest Coast Indian art collection; I lost a batik piece that was wet and moldy.

I had some old family memories, such as a family bible from Czechoslovakia, that was too damaged to save. I also lost years of family photos; growing up, college, all sorts of visual memories of great experiences. To this day I miss them, such as my photos of the Teton Dam collapse and Mt. St. Helens. Since I had packed the baby’s clothes when we evacuated Homestead, she only lost her room furnishings. I was a huge Tyco fan and most of the toys were the indestructible plastic that just needed cleaning.

One of the most interesting saves was a ceramic pig full of pennies. This had been stored in an outdoor shed (sometimes called a Florida basement). After Andrew we could not find the shed anywhere in the neighborhood. However, the pig was sitting upright in the back yard without a scratch. The swing set–which had the legs set in concrete–was twisted into pieces. But the legs were solid. My bicycle, which had been stored in the shed, was literally wrapped around one of the swing set legs. And by far the best save was a wedding picture. This was found about a mile away by someone who recognized my sister-in-law (she was in the photo). They gave the picture to her, and she gave it to me. Slightly damaged, but still a remarkable find.

We ended up at the bank in Homestead and closed accounts, grabbed valuables from the safe deposit box, said goodby to our neighbors, and left Homestead for good.

I gave a two-week notice at my work place. We contacted a moving company who came to Karen and Frank’s house and carefully packed everything we were able to save. I had gone through and pulled out stuff we would need when we got to Spokane, such as the baby’s high chair, car seat, stroller, some toys, and dog carriers. Everything else was packed and put in storage until we actually ended up someplace. The unnerving part was we had no idea how long it would be before we could would be in a house again.

Husband also packed up the big dog (Doberman Pinscher), a bunch of baby stuff, and drove to the Pacific Northwest. We both had family in Spokane. He was supposed to find a house to rent, but did not accomplish that task (I was kind of upset about that one). I arranged for the two little dogs (Miniature Pinschers) to fly to Spokane. Then all dogs were placed in a long-term kennel until we got settled.

In the mean time, I was running errands while still working. Getting bank accounts, mortgage, and other things settled. Took car in for service as we were going to drive across the country. I was actually too busy to miss the baby; besides I knew she was in good hands with her aunt and uncle.

Because I still was officially working, I was able to get my husband a stand-by ticket to fly back to Florida. He got home late one night, and we left the next day to get the baby, journey across the country, and start again. Things were already slightly strained between me and husband. Leaving Florida, I even mentioned that now would be the perfect time to get a divorce because we had nothing and thus it would be easier (financially) to split. But we decided to try to work things out. Andrew had placed a great deal of stress on everyone!

So that’s almost the end of the story. We  drove across country for two weeks and ended up in Spokane. Stayed with my brother for 2-3 months until we found a house. Neither one of us had a job yet, so we could only get a house that we could pay cash for. We both found jobs; I have been at the same job for over 18 years. Husband and I separated after 18 months and were later divorced. Hard to be single parent! But I am happy to be in the Pacific Northwest, out of hurricane reach, and my daughter knows what snow is!

After all is said and done, there are still strong memories. I really miss the old photos and other memorabilia that was lost. I do not like the sound of helicopters (they were constantly overhead in the days after Andrew). The smell of mold tends to send a wave of anxiety through my body. And the worst is that all hurricanes since then seem to bring back Andrew memories.  Thank you and good night, Irene.

Hurricane Andrew Blew Me Away – Part 2

To get caught up, you probably should read My Disaster Resume and Hurricane Andrew Blew Me Away – Part 1.

We awaken in Mt. Dora and discover that Homestead, Florida took the brunt of Andrew’s rage. Somehow, husband managed to call (by using a neighbor’s phone that sometimes worked) and reported that it was a disaster (duh!).  Our house was missing chunks of the roof, there was no running water nor electricity. Our 3 dogs were safe, but it was not looking good. We decided that the baby was not going to return to Homestead as it would not be safe for her. And she would basically slow down any recovery efforts wer were going to be able to do.

At that time, I worked for a company associated with the airlines and could receive basically free tickets to anywhere; on standby, of course.  So I found a flight from Orlando that would get us to Washington, DC, where more family lived.  Baby and I left Tuesday afternoon and flew to DC. I got baby situated with her aunt and uncle (and cousins, of course), and flew back to Orlando Wednesday morning.

As I get off the plane in Orlando, I hear my name called. A dear dear friend that I worked with had also evacuated to the Orlando area. He made many phone calls to find out where I was and tracked me down to my flight and the airport. See, it helps to work in the industry! Anyway, it was a tearful reunion for us and he bought me lunch.

I ended up back at Mt. Dora and made some quick plans to get back to Homestead. I filled the car with bottled water, some new clothing (as I did not really pack much when I left Homestead), and some food that did not need refrigeration. The plans were to leave Mt. Dora Thursday morning and drive to some other family’s house at Delray Beach. I would spend the  night there and get an early start Friday morning into Homestead. Apparently there was a lot of looting and I wanted to have maximum time during the daylight hours.

While in Delray Beach, found out that most of other family members were also in bad shape too, with regards to housing. So we made a huge pan of lasagna and I dropped it off at someone’s house Friday morning. This house still had power and was a mini-staging area for several other family members. And then I proceeded down the Turnpike to Homestead.

I started to cry as I’m driving into Homestead. There are no signs or landmarks and many of the roads were still blocked off.  Road blocks were everywhere and you had to show proof of residency. They were trying to keep a lid on the looting, which had been going strong for several days.

A common sight in Homestead

I finally found my house and was floored at what a mess it was. Husband had spray painted the address and insurance company on the front. It was the only way many people found out where they were. I don’t have electronic copies of the pictures or video I took that day, but these pictures pretty much give you the idea.

There was water all over the floor (tiled floor, not carpeted). Husband had swept most of it out before, but it would rain again and since the roof was severely damaged, there was no shelter. We had cathedral ceilings in the dining room and living room. Thus when the roof was damaged and the elements (mostly rain) came, it would slide down the peaked ceiling. The rest of the house had flat ceilings and they were completely collapsed with soggy, moldy insulation. It was gross! And because of the humidity and openness to the outside, mold was rapidly forming everywhere.  To this day, the smell of mold tends to bring back Andrew memories.

I was able to dig through stuff and find our homeowners insurance, which included the policy number. And just in the nick of time. Shortly after I got to our house, the Prudential agent appeared. We kind of wandered around the house. The agent was in tears; I was too shocked to cry and basically just numb. The agent found cracks all around the house, limited roofing, and except for living room and dining room, everything was covered in soggy, moldy insulation from the collapse of the ceilings.

The agent decided that more was destroyed than could be saved. So we  looked at the few items that were salvageable (dining room table and hutch, living room furniture, washing machine and dryer), came up with a price, and he then deducted that cost from the entire total. Basically we ended up with about 95% of replacement costs for everything. The house was considered totalled, so received $$ for that. And then the agent wrote us another check for day-to-day living expenses. After he wrote the check, he looked at it with tears in his eyes, tore it up, doubled the amount and wrote us another check. It was quite obvious that we were the first place he had stopped at while in Homestead. I’m convinced that we probably received a higher payoff than people who he visited in later days. Matter of fact, my sister-in-law’s house suffered more damage than ours, but she had to rebuild. Our house was written off as totalled so we could leave the area.

Florida City, few miles south of Homestead

Four days after the hurricane, we had no livable house, the dogs were freaked, the baby was in Virginia, but we had lots of $$ to pay off the mortgage. But what now? Stay in Florida and find someplace to live? Move elsewhere (out of Florida), but where?  All tough decisions to make when you are completely unresponsive to anything; I was just a robot doing things; husband was the same way. Stay tuned for the decision-making process and how I ended up 3500 miles away from the possibility of hurricanes.

My Disaster Resume

It’s not that my resume is a disaster, as in my previous jobs have been too many and too lame. No, I’m talking about my experience with disasters; floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, and a few close misses.  I am a tad superstitious about my disaster resume (I have a black cat and 13 is my lucky number), so don’t write me off as a nut case until you have read all my disaster posts.

In the past I threatened to send my disaster resume to all residents in southern California and ask for a mere $1 monetary donation to me so I would not become their neighbor. Although I never followed through with that plan, I still sometimes think it is a good idea.  After you have read myt resume, you may think peace of mind is cheap at $1.

Just to pique your interest, here is the short list. I will be expounding on each one in later posts.

Hurricane Andrew

Teton Dam Collapse

Mt. St. Helens Eruption